From the cut-up Cubist collages of Picasso to the monumental filmic narratives of Fiona Banner, and from the schoolboy subversion of Magritte to the demotic scrawl of Cy Twombly, the use of words is one of the defining features of modern art. Indeed, with many contemporary works, only those without text are remarkable. Exploring the strange, unsettling, and often humorous results when words escape their traditional confines and inhabit artworks, this book is the first sustained consideration of the manifold infiltrations of the written word into the visual arts from the nineteenth century to the present day.
Simon Morley traces the growing bond between word and image, explaining how artists have harnessed the resulting tension to form identities, challenge authority, and make sense of a world in constant change. Writing on the Wall discusses familiar movements from the Impressionists to the present day, focusing on many works of modern art such as Dada nonsense words, Surrealist painting-poems, Constructivist typographies, oriental calligraphy, postwar gestural painting, and much more. As he considers these works, Morley reveals how artists have responded to an environment increasingly saturated with words, and also asks how the mass media have adopted and adapted artistic devices in propaganda, typography, and advertising. The book ends with a look at current developments in the world of hypertext, where word and image have at last found an essential unity.
Introduction: Words and Pictures
Grand Bazar Universal: Impressionist Words
Merahi metua no Teha'amana:Symbolist Words
Au Bon Marché: Cubist Words
Parole-in-Libertà: Futurist Words
L.H.O.O.Q Dada Words
Futura: Constructivist Words
L'Alphabet des rêves: Surrealist Words
Words and Power
Writing Degree Zero: Post-War Words
Intermedia: Neo-Dada words
Coca-Cola: Pop Words
Art As Idea As Idea: Conceptual Words I
A Heap of Language: Conceptual Words II
The Prison-House of Language: Postmodern Words
Creolization: Millennial Words
Epiloque: Hypertext and Future Words
List of Illustrations
Simon Morley is an artist, curator and lecturer. After studying at Oxford University he lived and trained as an artist in Italy, the United States, and finally at Goldsmiths College, London. He teaches at the Sotheby's Institute of Art, London, and has exhibited his work internationally.
“A scholarly, comprehensive overview of how pictures and words have been combined throughout history, as well as a very attractive coffee-table book.”
"An intriguing survey of word-imbued artworks of the modern period, Writing on the Wall will surely be a touchstone for readings on the relationship between language and art across time. While filling a gap in the current scholarship on text in art, Morley has crafted in clear, accessible prose, a study that is easily extrapolated beyond modernism, indeed beyond the fine arts. It is an adventuresome work, and extremely stimulating."—Kathy O'Dell, author of Contract with the Skin: Masochism, Performance Art, and the 1970s